While PZ Myers was trudging through the wild country of Minnesota, I was traveling the trackless wastes of California (well, okay, not completely trackless; U.S. 99 and Interstate 5 must count for something). The experience left us both a bit tuckered out. PZ noted his own exhaustion in a brief post that promised a quick return to his usual generous rate of blog posting. In the meantime, though, he left us with a teaser about future topics, including an animal growl in honor of one David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute. My curiosity piqued, I followed the link to Klinghoffer's opinion piece in the Seattle Times.
As usual, whenever the Discovery Institute in involved, unintentional humor is the order of the day. Get a load of this load:
Dawkins, for his part, mocks the God of the Hebrew Bible as “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”A caricature, is it? Klinghoffer must be one of those people who prefers not to pay much attention to the details of his own religion. (He is a practicing Jew who considers the Hebrew Bible—what most Christians call the “Old Testament”—to be the divinely inspired word of God.) That's par for the course in the United States, where religiosity is typically coupled with a profound ignorance of the history and tenets of one's faith. You can read all about it in Stephen Prothero's book on religious illiteracy in this country. Klinghoffer has written extensively about religion, so his outburst isn't based as much on ignorance as it is on a willful refusal to face the obvious.
Such a wild caricature will be unrecognizable to any believer (like me) in the God of Israel.
Let's check out just a few of characteristics that Klinghoffer says are falsely imputed to this God fellow.
Control freak? Genesis 2:17: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” There's a lot more in this vein, of course, but I think someone who promises death in retaliation for unauthorized nibbling can fairly be called a control freak. This one covers vindictive, too, I would say.
Bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser? Numbers 31:17-18: “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” Yahweh is a mean son of a bitch as he wipes out all of the Midianites except for the toothsome young virgins. Make sure the baby boys are killed. We won't get upset about this sort of thing till King Herod does it in the New Testament. Looks like infanticidal and genocidal both fit nicely in this category. Klinghoffer was a bit profligate with his adjectives, but the big bad Jehovah of the Old Testament is up to the task.
Misogynistic? This one is just too easy, isn't it? Leviticus 12:2 & 5: “If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days.... But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks....” Girl children: twice as dirty as boy children.
Filicidal? Oh, I've done this one already. Just think of God telling Abraham to kill his son Isaac as a human sacrifice and to burn the boy's body as an offering. I wrote up my opinion of this episode in Holy homicide. (I bravely come out against human sacrifice.)
Pestilential? Let's ask the Egyptians in the book of Exodus just how pestilential Yahweh can be when he gets his dander up. Exodus 9:14-15: “For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.” For I am the biggest and baddest god on the block, yo!
This, by the way, is just a couple of chapters after Yahweh laughingly nudged Moses in the ribs and said, “I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.” Yeah, that's the ticket. The whole show would have been ruined if Pharaoh capitulated, so it amused Yahweh to use his special God powers to make sure that Pharaoh would remain steadfast in his defiance. That way God got to hit him with the whole divine wrath business. I know it seems just a tad unfair, but it's okay when you're God. I guess.
Go ahead and worship that, Klinghoffer. I'll pass.